Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go. First make things right with your brother or sister and then come back and offer your gift. Be sure to make friends quickly with your opponents while you are with them on the way to court. Otherwise, they will haul you before the judge, the judge will turn you over to the officer of the court, and you will be thrown into prison. I say to you in all seriousness that you won’t get out of there until you’ve paid the very last penny. (Matthew 5: 23-26)
We don’t have cable television in our house so I was left sitting on the couch with an antenna trying desperately to follow the grand jury’s decision concerning Michael Brown’s shooting. Channel 2. Channel 4. Channel 5. Channel 7. Back around again…Scorpion. The Voice. Sleepy Hollow. Dancing with the Stars. Over and over.
Eventually one television channel aired the decision by the grand jury. Only a few words came out of Prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s mouth before I sank back into my seat. In the mixture of emotions that erupted in the following minutes, I maintained the sinking feeling that so many of us know, “I’m not surprised.”
I’ve not written a lot on this blog recently because so much has been weighing on my heart and mind. Recent weeks have included financial concerns in the 1001 Worshipping Communities of the Presbyterian Church (USA), churches continuing to discern if they can be in communion with those whom they disagree, an unarmed man in a stairwell and a twelve year old boy with a toy gun both shot and killed, people of color facing racism every single time they walk out their doors in the US, consistent unrest throughout the world, and now the grand jury decision concerning Michael Brown’s death. If I were to name everything, well, that would take more than one blog post.
More and more, every day, I am convinced that reconciliation continues to be the most powerful call that we have as people of faith. It bears such significance that Jesus tells the crowds to leave their gift at the altar and run to their brother or sister to make things right. Not walk, run. Here’s what I think it means in today’s terms: We do a lot to seek pledges for the coming year. We talk to our congregations about gracious giving and stewardship. We sometimes struggle to make ends meet in our churches so that we can pay the bills, keep the lights on, and run the heat. We wax eloquent as our financial gifts as well as the work of our hands and feet serve ministries near and far.
But in Christ’s call, all of this is meaningless if we aren’t reconciled to our brothers and sisters for the wrongs that we commit.
Racism, sexism, ageism, socio-economic differences, able-ness; the list goes on and on. We are at no shortness of broken relationships, promises, and situations….we are, however, short on our dedication to true reconciliation in which our needs are intricately woven into the needs of others.
“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” -Fannie Lou Hamer
This Sunday my congregation will light the candle of Hope. My hope is that the brokenness of our political system, governing bodies, churches, and relationships right down to our own humanity will never, ever be the final word. As we sing the songs of Advent and wait for a child to be born, may we be reminded that the incarnation breaks into the world in a divine act of reconciliation.
So, dear friends, hold nothing back. Dive deeply into the call to live filled with hope. Go quickly to be reconciled to your neighbors before you come to the Table or stand in the pulpit. Demand reconciliation of yourself and others or the humble gifts that we give, whatever they may accomplish or however well-intentioned they might be, will be rendered meaningless.